On June 20, 1975, moviegoers collectively changed their attitudes about swimming in the ocean. Jaws also reinvented the summer movie season, and scary movies, overnight. Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s shower scene, this movie made audiences rethink potential sources of Things to Watch Out For. The sophomore effort of one of filmmaking’s living legends, Steven Spielberg, it still ranks as one of the world’s best-loved movies, with a commanding 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
My personal favorite element of this classic flick is the way the shark was represented; yes, I loved the acting performances of each and every human character, but the character of the shark upstaged everyone. And that shark’s name is Bruce. It’s hilarious to note that the name was attached to the mechanical shark(s) in honor of Spielberg’s lawyer, also named Bruce. Check this out, the last of them was recently found in a junkyard.
Here’s some awesome trivia from IMDb:
During pre-production, director Steven Spielberg, accompanied by friends Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and John Milius, visited the effects shop where “Bruce” the shark was being constructed. Lucas stuck his head in the shark’s mouth to see how it worked and, as a joke, Milius and Spielberg sneaked to the controls and made the jaw clamp shut on Lucas’ head. Unfortunately, and rather prophetically, considering the later technical difficulties the production would suffer, the shark malfunctioned, and Lucas got stuck in the mouth of the shark. When Spielberg and Milius were finally able to free him, the three men ran out of the workshop, afraid they’d done major damage to the creature.
Eat him, Bruce!
Editing is key, though. With a severely effective assist from the music. Jaws was Verna Fields’ last movie as an editor, and it is her best work. Spielberg came close to shutting down the whole project when he realized the fake shark just looked stupid, but it was Verna who calmly told him she could make it look real through wide shots, floating barrels, and the use of very selective, short shots. Let the viewers fill in the gaps with their imaginations, and they will believe in a monster from the deep.
As Spielberg says in this interview, “Had the shark been working, perhaps the film would have made half the money, and been half as scary.”
Some still shots from a classic, courtesy Universal.
Hold onto your fridge, it looks like Dr. Jones is going on another adventure soon. No obnoxiously long title yet, but it’s been leaked that the new script will take him (and Mutt) to the Bermuda Triangle, and George Lucas/Steven Spielberg will helm the fifth entry in the series. Reports say that this will be the final installment, and it will “stay true to the series’ roots, and won’t contain lots of state-of-the-art special effects.” Maybe.
That’s what they said last time. Then they opened the film with CGI groundhogs.
My hope is this will actually be pretty darned good, a triumphant return to greatness, like what happened when The Last Crusade successfully washed the taste of Temple of Doom from our brains.
UPDATE: Producer Frank Marshall tweets:
The rumor about INDY 5 is completely false. Nothing has changed, we are not shooting next year and still in the research phase…
Hmm. Well, if it’s “completely” false, why does he indicate the intention? If anything, this is more good news; they’re taking their time to write a good script.
Here’s a super-short documentary about the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s amazing what memories you can stir up by finding things on YouTube; I totally remember the poster advertising this, mid 1977.
It came to pass during this hellacious Station Fire in the Los Angeles mountains, that the house where Spielberg placed his most beloved story was threatened by flames. Just picture a wall of flames behind the house, and you got the full picture.
Interesting thing I never realized before about that script. Imdb confirms that there are no last names used, just first names, and a bunch of characters like “Medic” that show how basic and steampunk that script was. Bare bones and truth.
Hey, I wonder how the plot would have unfolded if E.T. had seen this view as he peered over the ridge?
Freshly leaked scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of my favorite Spielberg flicks! It connects with the early scene involving the air traffic control tower monitoring an encounter. I like the rewrite where the two met at the South American airstrip better, but this is still very interesting to watch, and imagine a different cut.
Since The Transcript of George Lucas’ brainstorming sessions with Steven Spielberg and writer Lawrence Kasdan was released online as a .pdf, I’ve been perusing it. It’s basically these two 1978 wunderkinds are telling Kasdan how they want the story to be, and Kasdan himself shows tremendous grok of their concepts, and even makes many suggestions that end up in the final product, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I am an unabashed fan of that film, and usually include it in my favorites whenever asked. I remember winning some radio call-in contest, and I had won tickets to this weirdly named movie I had no idea about. This was pre-marketing days, so yeah. I went to this premiere event, and was completely blown away. And this transcript shows how the authors started out wanting to tell a certain story, and they really had the bones to begin with and kept the structure basically the same. But the drama is in the elements that they are talking about that didn’t make it to the final draft, and how they kind of wrangle the thing around until it resembles what we all know and love. Example, the action sequence in Mongolia:
Lucas: She takes the pendant off and puts it on (the table). She starts writing the note and the Germans come in. (Indy) comes in and they have a fight. In the middle of the fight they knock over the table and the little box breaks open. The pendant goes rolling across the floor. Immediately you think someone is going to see it. It’s sitting out there. You’re afraid one of the Germans is going to notice it.
Kasdan: I love the idea of fire. When it rolls across the floor, it could roll into the fire. You don’t think it’s going to burn up, but he has to retrieve it…I’d love it if he burns down her only stake in the world, which is the inn.
Spielberg: That’s a good idea.
Kasdan: The pendant might lead him to the fire. He uses the fire.
Lucas: The Nazis should do that. Let’s have the Nazis cause the fire. He’s the one who brought the Nazis there, so it’s his fault anyway. I like the idea of doing the old branding iron scene before he bursts in.
Spielberg: I love the branding iron stuff. It’s a red hot poker.
Lucas: That’s what starts the poker. It starts immediately on the fight. When he comes in he knocks the poker out of their hands. The poker goes into the curtains and immediately starts the fire. They fight. The box gets knocked off the table. One of the Nazis sees the pendant as it falls, and starts to go for it. He gets hit in the head with a falling beam or something. When it’s all over, they end up with the pendant and a pile of rubble. She says, “You’re going to be a long time paying for this.” Then he feels obligated to bring her along, since he does feel sort of guilty.
Spielberg: She can say, “Charlie, you’re my ticket home.” Wouldn’t the Germans pull guns and start shooting?
Lucas: Yes, but he comes in and uses his whip. He also maybe has a gun.
Spielberg: There should be one big Nazi, the torture guy, 6′ 6″ weighing 290 pounds, wearing this huge overcoat.
Lucas: And you have the local yokels, the two guys with the Tommy Guns and the furry overcoats, yak coats, just off the border war, or whatever.
Spielberg: This Nazi is struggling with our hero, and they’re kind of rolling on the ground, and one of these henchmen is standing at the door trying to get a clear shot because they keep moving. Two of the other Germans who are struggling with the other girl say, “Shoot both of them.” The German who’s rolling around with our hero panics, pulls out his own gun and shoots the guy with the Tommy Gun, kills them both to save himself.
Kasdan: All the bad guys in this movie are so vile, they turn on themselves. Now they’re standing on rubble.
Lucas: Cut to Cairo.